Lots of schools are starting to put together their plans for the upcoming admissions season for the Class of 2018 and we just wanted to offer some further input into your process. Seems like every week recently, EssaySnark has been piping up with our own ideas about how schools should run things – first with our suggestion on when (not) to schedule your deadlines, then with a tsk-tsk to Columbia on another misguided change to their app (a small issue, but an issue nonetheless, if you ask us).
Today’s observations came to us in October 2014, as the final Round 1 deadlines were hitting. So this is another post to, ahem, “help” you admissions people with your round scheduling. 😀
Here’s how the Round 1 deadlines hit last year:
- Tue., Sept. 09: HBS
- Wed., Sept. 17: Duke EA
- Thu., Sept. 18: Yale
- Tue., Sept. 23: MIT
- Wed., Sept. 24: INSEAD
- Wed., Sept. 24: Kellogg
- Thu., Sept. 25: Booth
- Wed., Oct. 01: Wharton
- Wed., Oct. 01: Stanford
- Wed., Oct. 01: Cornell
- Wed., Oct. 01: Berkeley-Haas
- Fri., Oct. 03: LBS
- Sun., Oct. 05: Tepper
- Mon., Oct. 06: Ross
- Wed., Oct. 08: Columbia J-Term/ED
- Wed., Oct. 08: Tuck EA
- Fri., Oct. 10: Darden
- Fri., Oct. 10: Georgetown
- Tue., Oct. 14: McCombs
- Wed., Oct. 15: NYU
- Fri., Oct. 17: UNC
- Wed., Oct. 22: UCLA
The color-coding is our incredibly arbitrary grouping of schools based on how we see our clients
drool over them prioritize. Maybe MIT should be pink and Yale green, or both should be yellow… Anyway, the point is, we want to discuss what happened with many clients in Round 1 last year – a trend maybe you saw, too, or maybe you didn’t since all you deal with are candidates for your single school.
FACT: The Round 1 admissions season has grown longer. Much longer.
OUTCOME: We – generally – saw an improvement in essay quality based on this lengthened Round 1 window. Anyone targeting a set of schools with early September to early October deadlines tended to do a bit better overall with their process from what we’ve observed in past years.
(Hint for all you BSers reading this: This higher quality apps thing means that Round 1 is more competitive, and Round 2 is becoming harder to break through when it never was before.)
CAUSE: With HBS prompting the best candidates to get their essay game on a full month earlier than had been the norm, this forced people into essay-writing mode a lot quicker. Which is great. Previously, it was only the most motivated candidates that did this, for Columbia. Now it’s become a trend. And that filtered down into a better-prepared set of applicants to schools whose deadlines hit in the week or so following the HBS deadline. We especially saw good essays for Kellogg, and better-than-typical essays for Stanford.
The extended Round 1 window meant that everyone tried for more schools – and some schools got the short end of the stick.
Risk to a too-early deadline: We had at least one person blow off their Yale app completely because they didn’t realize the deadline was so soon in September. Duke EA was also early, but they have a Round 1 in the “standard” timeframe – plus, anyone interested in Duke EA is already very logged-on to Fuqua. So we didn’t see people skipping out on Duke based on scheduling. (Yes, it seems that some HBS applicants, too, were unaware that Round 1 had already come and gone but they probably weren’t going to make it into Harvard anyway.)
This means that having a deadline too early – especially when none of your peers have deadlines clustered around yours – means that some of your candidate pool may miss the boat. Maybe you don’t care, since they could apply in Rd 2 instead – but some of those well-qualified applicants will obviously get swooped up by other schools with later Rd 1 apps.
So the dates, and when they fall, do matter. We assume you know that, we’re just stating it for the record. If more schools had earlier dates – as long as they don’t ALL have earlier dates – it could help you.
The problems last year started to surface in the second week of October. We actually became dismayed at the decrease in quality of the essays we saw for NYU and lower-ranked schools like UNC. People were totally phoning it in on those apps.
THESE APPLICANTS WERE COMPLETELY BURNED OUT.
Candidates will get burned out at some point in the cycle, and last year, the second week in October was very late in the Round 1 game. However, those were some great schools that got sacrificed in the applicant burnout phase – schools that they’d been very interested in, around June or July, but then became increasingly apathetic about after the stress of all the apps that went before. A burned-out BSer writes crap essays – if they write them at all.
So the extended application window starting in early September is great – provided it doesn’t flow all the way out into the middle of October.
We know you can’t optimize for every case but what we’re inviting the schools to do is, look at the calendar, and look at where your peer schools have deadlines, and think about the state of mind your preferred applicant pool is going to be in by the time your deadline hits.
Maybe you want to be brave, and move your date up to around where HBS is (Round 1 has been already announced as Wednesday, September 9, 2015). If more than just Yale were in that part September, it would be an advantage to the lot of you (we’re actually not even sure that Yale will keep their deadline so early; who knows how much it affected their Rd 1 volumes? we’re betting maybe a lot).
For NYU in particular, it seems that a September 15th deadline might serve you well – particularly since you’ve maintained your traditional November 15th Round 2. Yes, we know that technically NYU admissions is rolling – but few applicants know this. They are very deadline-driven. It’s great to have a later-than-normal deadline, in order to potentially swoop up more applicants, but we’re betting that NYU got a greater-than-normal number of repurposed Chicago Booth PPTs in their app in 2014 due to the way the dates fell out on the calendar.
For Kellogg, with your scheduling constraints around applicant-initiated interviews, why not move your app deadline to middle of September, or earlier?
And we’ll say it again: You might also want to look at what day of the week your deadline falls on. We deal with a huge number of decently qualified candidates every year who are just by nature procrastinators. They are not going to get their act together early no matter what. If you put a deadline on a Thursday, that means they’re writing those essays on Tuesday and Wednesday – after working all day. Why not make your deadline on Monday? That way, your lovable straggler types have a dedicated weekend just prior to the deadline – and you’re more likely to get their undivided attention on your app for a few more hours. Yeah, we admit, this is a little bit of a silly suggestion – but it could reduce the stress level of a certain subset of your applicants, at least marginally. And a less-stressed-out applicant is more likely to produce a better essay.
And isn’t that what all of us want? 🙂
We’d also love to see more schools issuing interview invitations a little earlier, so that some of the strongest applicants who get rejected by Harvard in their mid-October “release” will not spin out into the depths of despair as a result. We talked about that (not so) wonderful phenomenon here. Getting those interviews out earlier would only be supported by earlier submit dates, so this is another vote in favor of that.
We do hope that this doesn’t result in another pattern of deadlines all clustered together, as we had up to the 2012 season, where every school seemed to have apps due in the same few days in early October… It won’t really help if suddenly all the deadlines are on September 15th now instead of October 3rd.
Oh wait while we’re at it: What’s up with all the Round 2 dates happening in the same three to five days in January? Why not have a Round 2 in, gasp!, mid December? BEFORE the holiday break?
You can chalk this post up to EssaySnark having fantasies that any of you adcom peeps even care about our idealized view of admissions and what may be in the best interest of all those applicants out there… or maybe there is something here that is helpful to you as you look at your planning for the coming season.
Innovation can come in many places on your applications. It’s not just about racing to see who can have the fewest essays.
It’s all offered in an attempt to help the candidate.